Top Stories

Nikola Vucevic, Deandre Ayton lead top 10 big men that score in pick and roll

Take a closer look at the top 10 scorers as pick-and-roll roll men this season.

Earlier this week, we broke down the top 10 guards that score as the ball handler in pick-and-roll plays. Now, it’s time to focus on the screen setters that get the ball back after either rolling to the basket or popping out on the perimeter and look to score.

The graphic above shows the top 10 roll man scorers (by points per game) through games played on Tuesday, March 1. We also include their points per possession to show which players are most efficient when they get their scoring opportunities in pick-and-roll sets.

Nikola Vucevic (CHI): No player comes close to matching Vucevic’s 383 pick-and-roll roll man possessions so far this season; Jusuf Nurkic is second at 214. We see these outliers in a variety of play types (Joel Embiid has 388 post-ups, 121 more than any other player) and shot types (DeMar DeRozan has attempted 541 mid-range shots, 179 more than any other player). Vucevic has the most opportunities to score in roll man situations and does lead the league in roll man points per game (6.4 ppg), but he ranks 28th out of the 30 players with at least 100 roll man plays in points per possession (0.92).

Deandre Ayton (PHX) and Domantas Sabonis (SAC): On the opposite end of roll man efficiency, we find Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton and Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis, who both score 1.31 points per roll man possession so far this season. Of the 30 players with at least 100 roll man possessions, Ayton and Sabonis are tied for third in efficiency, and both have a teammate in the top five – Phoenix’s JaVale McGee is second at 1.45 ppp and Sacramento’s Richaun Holmes is fifth at 1.30 ppp – but have fewer possessions to work with.

It will be interesting to watch both players over the next few weeks as Sabonis continues to get acclimated with his new teammates and new system in Sacramento and Ayton will be missing his primary pick-and-roll partner Chris Paul – as we can see from this highlight.

LaMarcus Aldridge (BKN): Aldridge’s roll man frequency (36.9%) nearly matches Vucevic (37.1%) as 36.9% of Aldridge’s offensive plays come as the roll man in pick-and-roll. At 22.8 minutes per game, Aldridge plays the fewest minutes of any player in this top 10, but he makes the most of his opportunities by scoring 1.2 points per possession.

Anthony Davis (LAL) and Jusuf Nurkic (POR): Both big men have been sidelined since mid-February with foot injuries – Davis with a mid-foot sprain and Nurkic with plantar fasciitis – that are expected to keep them out for at least a month. Davis has averaged his most roll man points (4.7 per game) since leading the league in 2016-17 (7.1 ppg) when he was in New Orleans. Nurkic’s 4.5 ppg on roll man plays matches his mark from 2018-19.

Jakob Poeltl: Not only is Poeltl the namesake behind a Wordle-inspired NBA player guessing game, he’s also one of the top roll man scorers in the league with a career-best 4.4 points per game. This is part of an overall career year for Poeltl in his sixth NBA season with averages of 13.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 blocks.

Nikola Jokic: The Nuggets rank third in pick-and-roll roll man frequency (7.9%) and last in pick-and-roll ball handler frequency (11.9%) so far this season. Of course, those percentages may change if injured stars like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are able to return to the lineup after missing extended time due to injury.

Joel Embiid: The James Harden/Joel Embiid pick-and-roll combo may turn out to be one of the most dangerous the league has seen in a long time. They are just three games into their run as teammates, but the early results – and the highlights like this one below – are pretty strong.

Rudy Gobert: While Gobert ranks 10th in roll man scoring, when we combine the points he creates with his screens (16.0 ppg) and the points he scores when he gets the ball back after setting a screen (4.3), that accounts for 20.3 points per game – the highest number of any player on this top 10.

Rudy Gobert 4.3 16.0 20.3
Domantas Sabonis 4.6 13.1 17.7
Deandre Ayton 5.8 11.6 17.4
Nikola Vucevic 6.4 10.9 17.3
Jakob Poeltl 4.4 12.9 17.3
Jusuf Nurkic 4.5 11.8 16.3
Joel Embiid 4.3 8.2 12.5
Nikola Jokic 4.3 7.6 11.9
LaMarcus Aldridge 5.4 6.0 11.4
Anthony Davis 4.7 5.2 9.9